So I am having this inner conflict where do I belong in the professional world? In the classroom, yes. In what environment? I don’t know. I have gut feelings, I have thoughts and then I have doubts. It is easy to get a perspective as I teach in college. I get to talk to my profs, I can talk to those I teach with in the graduate teaching program and my guy he is a high school teacher. But at the end I still feel conflicted.
Yesterday I took my #2 to her piano lessons and her teacher just happens to be a high school English teacher of many, many years. You could tell she wanted to ask me about my current position and my future endeavors. A conversation I had never really thought of since she is my daughter’s piano teacher. I never thought of her outside of that despite knowing different and having taking a previous course with her in my graduate program (our Master of Arts program runs closely with the Masters of Teaching program at our campus).
The conversation was nice for several reasons. One, she had a perspective I hadn’t thought about. A long time English teacher having seen a whole lot of students, administrators and just the whole of education change. Two, what the teaching profession of English consists of in her field, high school. What I realized that while the two arenas of college and high school are vastly different by standards and regulations much of the problems they see are similar. My naivety is hardly masked in my hopeful dreams of being that teacher that changes the world. Her experience tells her those things happen every day.
The conclusion to be a good teacher doesn’t require certain experiences and education. And while those things certainly enhance the classroom in a variety of ways, but the one and only true method to make a great teacher is dedication. Dedication to the idea that we will get through and we will teach to the best of our ability always.
We talked awhile about my qualms with personal responsibility and her issues were just the same. She said, “things have drastically changed the last two or three years.” We giggled and talked about this incessant need to feel like you have to do cartwheels to keep them entertained and engaged. Later, I drove away.
I thought long and hard about what has changed? Why are things so different? Or is this just a phase of education because as with any professional field things are always changing. But with education it just seems so prevalent and consistent like the tides. It feels like you board the tide or you get left on the beach.
And we always have to ask ourselves are these changes good? For me what I feel like I have witnessed is the politics of it all controlling the change. But here I am young. I have hardly lived a life with out No Child Left Behind. If they are bad you spend time recovering. Is that where we are?
Then all I can think about is this post written by Writing on the Margins author (a friend and mentor to me) about consequences of politics in education and the very detrimental effect it can have in the classroom. At the time when I read it I was gobsmacked that it could have such a an impact, but I was freshly graduated with my BA with sun in my eyes. I thoughtfully tossed it aside only to have have it come back time and time again when I see it.
Two years later, I see it every where I turn. Read the media, it is everywhere. Teachers are the devil because they want due pay, respect for their jobs and oh my gosh, they have summers off which rarely mean summers off (so we are all clear about that). But what you often don’t see is teachers having multiple jobs (hello we are that family), teachers living at or below poverty level (again almost that family too and have been it previously), teachers with advanced degrees but not making the pay of their advanced degree holder counterparts in every other field (oh yea we are that family too).
Teachers have rarely gotten their due respect via financial respect or public respect in my 35 years but now more than ever the profession is being attacked and that scares the shit out of me to be frank. Why would I want to be a teacher in this world right now?
Truthfully, when I left Delta Faucet in 2002 I was making without a degree what I will make if I choose a high school classroom with a masters degree in hand. If I choose to not get my PhD and become an adjunct, I will have to kill myself and teach at multiple universities with no benefits to make that (which for me is why this option is hardly viable) and really who knows because as the post above says, colleges and universities are undergoing a political change right now and I have witnessed it first hand at my campus. So the clear answer is get a Phd, right? Is it? Those in the academic field can attest to that path having a large cost as well. A cost financially, emotionally and a cost to my family I am kind of tired of making.
Therefore, my answers are hardly clear. But in one visit with my daughter’s piano teacher reminded me why I am a teacher. Because I am dedicated and will always be dedicated to my field, to my students and to myself and this dream I have.